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House finally moves on lobbying reform

Capitol Hill

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: Back in January, congressional Democrats made a big show about all the things they'd get done in their first 100 legislative hours. They checked off a lot of the key issues they'd campaigned on. Left undone was any hint of lobbying reform.

Marketplace's Steve Henn reports the House of Representatives took action today. It passed two lobbying reform bills with large bilateral majorities.


STEVE HENN: Democratic leaders hailed the bills as a major victory. But to get them to the floor of the house for a vote they had to strip out numerous reforms.

One bill requires lobbyists who collect lots of campaign contributions for candidates or political parties to publicly disclose their role raising money.

Brian Pallasch is president of the American League of Lobbyists. He says it's unfair that only lobbyists — and not Wall Street bankers or even movie stars — have to disclose how they bundle money.

BRIAN PALLASCH: Do you want to know everything about bundling or do you just want to know about the lobbyists that do it?

Another bill will require new rules for trade associations. It would ban lobbyists from going on most privately-sponsored trips. It also increases the penalties for lobbyists who don't follow the rules.

Pallasch says there's big hole here: neither bill does anything to step up enforcement.

PALLASCH: Congress should enforce the laws and rules that are already there.

MELANIE SLOAN: Yeah, well it's weird to be in agreement but, you know . . . yeah.

Melanie Sloan is the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. She doesn't usually agree with the lobbyists.

SLOAN: It's just ridiculous that it's constantly coming down on the lobbyists and never on members of Congress. It's as if members of Congress can't stop themselves from being seduced by lobbyists, so the people who have to be stopped are the lobbyists. It's like, you know, it's analogous to saying I can't have a pretty girl in my office because I won't be able to stop myself from harassing her.

Sloan wanted to see the creation an Office of Public Integrity to monitor congress. Others reforms left out included new disclosure rules for grassroots lobbying campaigns.

In Washington, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.

About the author

Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter for the entire portfolio of Marketplace programs until December 2011.

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